Quentell Violett was born in New York, New York, on 4 April 1898, son of Atwood and Olga (Quentell) Violett. He attended Bovee School in New York City, and Westminster School, Simsbury, Connecticut, where he played football in 1913 and 1914. In 1915 he entered the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and while there was a member of the Yale Swimming Team in 1915-16. In the summer of 1916 he served with the 10th Field Artillery, Connecticut National Guard. He left Yale to serve as Master Signal Electrician, 317th Field Artillery, during the World War I period, and until 19 July 1919. Appointed Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserve on 19 September 1942, he was promoted to Commander, effective the same date, and to Captain to date from 1 July 1951.
While a member of the Tenth Field Artillery, he had active service on the Mexican Border in the summer of 1916, and during World War I, in June 1917, he reported for duty at Camp Devens, Massachusetts. He was sent overseas in July 1917, serving in France as a member of Company C, 317th Field Signal Battalion. While there he attended Signal School, and in October and November 1918 participated in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. He was demobilized at Mineola, Long Island, on 19 July 1919.
Following his war service, he had brief employment with the firm of Herrick and Bennett, stockbrokers in New York, and during the period 1920 to 1934, he was employed by Standard Oil Company of New York; Socony Vacuum Corporation; and Standard Vacuum Oil Company, in India. For two years thereafter he travelled extensively in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Balkans, and wrote travel, political and humorous articles. From 1936 to 1940 he was with the US Government (International Narcotic Enforcement) in Continental Europe, principally the Central and Balkan States. He was commended for breaking the Diamontoglu-Ciolan ring, Athens-Zagreb-Paris-Cherbourg, in November 1938, and for his work on Borrelli, Genoa, and Yascha Katzenberg, Bucharest-Athens, 1938 cases.
He spent a year in New York, after which he travelled, from January 1941 to July 1942 in Africa and the Middle East, occupied with his writing. Called to active service with the Naval Reserve in August 1942, he served for two months in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (Petroleum Planning), Navy Department, Washington, DC. He was then transferred to Headquarters, Commander in Chief, US Fleet, for duty with Advanced Base Units, Atlantic Fleet. He reached the Naval Operating Base, Casablanca, French Morocco, on 9 November 1942, and served with Commander Moroccan Sea Frontier, as Petroleum Coordinator until 30 May 1943, when he was transferred to the US Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters.
He was awarded the Legion of Merit “For exceptionally meritorious conduct…as Officer in Charge, Naval Petroleum Unit, during the occupation of the Island of Sicily in July 1943…” The citation further states that he “organized and set up the petroleum installations for our forces in Sicily, later taking over and rehabilitating captured facilities on the island…(and) enabled our forces to fuel efficiently and with minimum loss of time, thereby contributing in large measure to the successful occupation of the island.”
In August 1943 he was designated Officer in Charge, Petroleum Division, EIGHTH Fleet (Advanced Base Group, Oran, Algeria), and from February to December 1944 he served as Commander, Task Group 80.3, EIGHTH Fleet. He was awarded the Gold Star in lieu of the Second Legion of Merit for “outstanding services as Commanding Officer, Petroleum Division ONE, and as a Task Group Commander prior to and during the amphibious invasion of Southern France in August 1944…” The citation continues, in part:
“Commander Violett…organized his unit and in accordance with prearranged plans in which he collaborated developed petroleum installations and water supply points at strategic locations in Corsica, which proved completely adequate and efficient in operation for the staging and support of ships and craft participating in the assault operations. Accompany the assault forces to Southern France, he quickly established fueling facilities in the beach areas by which the needs of operating craft and assault elements were fully met. Later…he successfully accomplished the work of rehabilitating local petroleum installations in the Toulon-Marseilles measurably to the continued support and maintenance of the Allied Armies in Southern France…”
For three months he had duty as Commander Petroleum Division ONE, Eastern Sea Frontier, and returned in March to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations for duty on the staff of Commander, Naval Transportation Service. During the period June 1945 to January 1946, he served successively on the staffs of Commander Amphibious Advanced Bases, Pacific, Commander South China Fleet (Advanced Base), and Commander South China Fleet, as Petroleum Officer. He reached the United States, via USS Charleston, early in 1946, and after two months’ hospitalization was ordered to the Western Sea Frontier for nine months’ duty as a member of the American Petroleum Board.
Service from March 1947 to October 1951 on the staff of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, was followed by shore duty as Deputy Executive Secretary of the Munitions Board Petroleum Committee, Washington, DC, until August 1952. He had brief temporary duty in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, and on 29 December 1952, was assigned as Director (Pacific Command) Petroleum Office, Staff Commander Service Force, US Pacific Fleet.
In addition to the Legion of Merit with Gold Star and Combat “V,” Captain Violett had the World War I Victory Medal; the American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.